Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

31st May 2013

running like a girl alexandra heminsley

In many social circles there is one divide that can sometimes feel unbridgeable. Are you the sporty type – or do you prefer a session in an easy chair to one on the pitch or in the gym?

It’s the latter group that we tend to imagine clutching books while shunning red-faced activity, so it isn’t surprising that inspiring, honest, autobiographical running books aren’t all that common.

There’s no shortage of ghost written, go get ‘em-style stories from women athletes, where the struggle against feminine stereotypes is a regular themes. Then there’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, where the writer muses on running.

Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like A Girl fills a gap, a gap best described as: “I’d like to know a bit about running, even though I’m not a natural athlete or a man, and I don’t have a bloody clue what I’m doing”. And thank God. After all, feminist writer/runner role models are hard to come by.

Heminsley, journalist, broadcaster and author of Ex & The City: You’re Nobody Til Somebody Dumps You, opens up about her rather chaffed journey towards becoming a regular runner (from difficult beginnings, she’s since run five marathons) with a humorous bent that is sorely lacking in other sporting literature.

She is approachable, candidly discussing the parts of running that are a challenge for a beginner, like having the bravado to face down a cocky sports store employee to get a decent pair of running shoes.

There’s a handy list of the top injures a runner experiences, and what to do about them, as well as some great tips (like covering your feet in Vaseline, or the way that arm movements can propel you up any incline).

What really hits home is Heminsley’s honesty. There are things in this book that most wouldn’t consider mumbling to a friend – what it feels like to beg to use a toilet mid race, shedding toenails, or the feeling that everyone is watching the constant jiggle of your soft parts.

These aren’t things that come up in the average inspirational book: Heminsley takes a naked look at the tribulations of running, and the eventual triumphs. There’s a lot here about self-belief, the strength that can be gained in family and friends, and the small moments of community that are forged through the simple act of running together.

It turns out that, once you realise that running is more about your thoughts than your thighs, you’re pretty much ready to run a marathon.While Heminsley’s journey can read a tad smugly at times, as a runner myself I can honestly say it is worth glossing over any such moments to find the gold in the centre. It turns out that, once you realise that running is more about your thoughts than your thighs, you’re pretty much ready to run a marathon.

By the last page you know you’ve been reading the running journal of a good woman – and like most good women these days, she’ll even have a chat with you about it on Twitter. So if you have questions or need any more inspiration, you know where to find her.

Running Like A Girl is published in paperback by Hutchinson and is available from Foyles, Amazon and your local independent bookshop, priced at £12.99. An ebook edition is also available, priced at £7.52.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended for: Couch potatoes with ambitions to greater things, and keen runners and sportspeople who’ll find plenty to recognise and smile at.

Other recommended reading: For more moments of inspiration for your fierce self go to Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman. If you’re ready to don your trainers, take a peak into one of our lady runner pioneers with Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionise Women’s Sports by Kathrine Switzer.

Rachelle Thompson